by Joe Azar
Out of all the positions to dictate whether a product will fail or thrive in the next level, running backs are the easiest to determine. A college star can thrive in the backfield with a good offensive line, only to falter in the NFL if they don’t have the support around them to succeed in the next level (or play for the Browns). Most schools do give teams a pro-ready running back that can be valuable, but there are some universities that are infamous for giving out straight duds.
Wisconsin: The BIG 10 teams stick to the same formula: a great front seven that can give their offense plenty of time to find a lane. The problem with the formula for the teams in the NFL is that they see the numbers produced by these players and bite on them too early, Broncos fans know of the accolades Monte Ball had and the former Badger was primed to take the starting job for Denver. However he had a harder time finding an open lane than I do solving algebra algorithms. Melvin Gordon hasn’t lived up to the hype either, though he may be the last silver lining left for Wisconsin’s mediocre products.
Penn State: This one is a bit of an oldie, but let’s not forget the amount of high draft picks Penn State has produced to be flops. Ki-Jana Carter and Crutis Ennis where great for the Nittany Lions, but never turned out to have success in the pros. Curt Warner didn’t end up with a bad career, but nothing spectacular. The same issue that Wisconsin faced, Penn State running backs faced as well.
Alabama: Yes Trent Richardson’s career lasted the lifespan of a goldfish, but a school with serviceable starting running backs like (Fat) Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram and TJ Yeldon counts for something. Don’t forget the Crimson Tide also was Shaun Alexander’s alma mater and he broke the rushing touchdown record in a season en route to an MVP and Super Bowl appearance. Love or hate the school, they are a university that should be proud of the talent they turn out of the backfield.
Cal: Beast. Mode. Marshawn Lynch is destined for a Hall of Fame bust made out of Skittles after the career that had featured a Super Bowl win and if Pete Carroll was smart he would’ve had two. Other running backs from this school include C.J. Anderson, who looks to be the real deal in Denver and Justin Forsett. Not a school with a lot of the national spotlight, Cal is sneaky good at the running back position.